2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Browns looking to climb from AFC North cellar

By TOM WITHERS - AP Sports Writer
    2013-08-27 14:26

CLEVELAND (AP) - For his entire pro career, Joe Thomas has known nothing but change, misery and losing.

Welcome to Cleveland.

Oh, sure, he's made six straight Pro Bowls with the Browns, earning the reliable and durable left tackle a yearly trip to Hawaii. Thomas, though, would trade all those vacations for one visit to the postseason.

``I want to go the playoffs,'' Thomas said earlier this summer. ``It's no fun playing in the NFL when you're going 4-12 every year. It's just not, it's drudgery.''

Those dreary days could be over.

With a first-year head coach who understands Cleveland's passion, more experienced players and a committed owner in Jimmy Haslam, the Browns appear to be on the verge of turning their fortunes. It's been six years since they had a winning record, and 11 since their last playoff appearance, but Thomas believes the Browns are poised to contend.

And when he closes his eyes, Thomas envisions a wintry day in January near Lake Erie when football, the way it once was in Cleveland, is back.

``I think about the day of me running out of the tunnel for a home playoff game, that's my dream,'' he said. ``That's why I show up every day.''

If the Browns are indeed going to improve, they must gain ground in the rugged AFC North. Cleveland is just 16-50 inside one of the league's toughest divisions and only 5-25 in the past five years.

Here's are five things to watch as Cleveland enters the 2013 season:

CHUD'S IN CHARGE: Like so many kids growing up in Ohio, Rob Chudzinski had his heart broken by the Browns. It's his job to try and fix a few. Cleveland's offensive coordinator in 2007 - when the Browns went 10-6 - Chudzinski takes over the team he rooted for as a youngster and one that has chewed up and spit out coaches at an alarming rate.

Chudzinski, he's ``Chud'' to everyone, is Cleveland's sixth coach since 1999. He spent the past two years as Carolina's offensive coordinator. With the Panthers, he directed a record-breaking offense he hopes to replicate in Cleveland. To assist him, the Browns hired offensive coordinator Norv Turner and defensive guru Ray Horton, two of the best coordinators on the market with proven track records.

Turner's job is to get the most out of second-year quarterback Brandon Weeden, who has the physical tools and could thrive in an offense designed to his strengths.

RICHARDSON READY TO RUMBLE: His ribs healed and 10 pounds lighter than a year ago, running back Trent Richardson is set for a breakout season - as long as he stays healthy. Richardson rushed for 950 yards as a rookie, when he played more than half the year with two broken ribs.

Richardson lacked the same burst as he had at Alabama, which is part of the reason he slimmed down to 225 pounds. The 23-year-old, who also underwent knee surgery last year, looked terrific in the preseason and credited his improvement to reviewing tapes of how he ran in college and high school. Richardson said it was ``time to get back to the basics.''

In the past, the feature running back in Turner's offense has topped 300 carries, and Richardson is looking forward to doing more ``than running between the tackles'' as he did a year ago.

``I'm looking towards no injury, no broken fingernails, nothing,'' he said. ``I know my whole season is based on being healthy and playing 16 games and hopefully in the playoffs.''

SOUTH IN THE NORTH: Unless they start winning division games, the Browns will stay stuck in the AFC North's basement - their home eight times in 11 years.

Since their return in 1999, the Browns have gone just 16-50 against Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati. They've never gone better than 3-3, and that came in their only two winning seasons (2002, 2007) since their expansion rebirth.

The Browns have been competitive inside the division, but losing close games doesn't cut it.

With the Steelers rebuilding, the Ravens losing key contributors from their Super Bowl title team, and the Bengals being, well, the unpredictable Bengals, the Browns could close the gap on their three rivals.

``I think we're making good strides,'' Thomas said. ``But we've got to win games to prove we've made strides.''

WEEDEN'S GROWTH: On a wall inside the Browns' draft room is a list of things the team feels it must do ``On The Path To The Super Bowl.'' Near the top is: ``Have a championship-caliber quarterback.''

Brandon Weeden has this year to show he is one.

Following an up-and-down-and-sideways rookie season, Weeden heads into his second year confident he can lead the Browns back to respectability. He's got the arm, but the Browns just aren't 100 percent certain he has the other intangibles to push them into playoff contention.

Weeden turns 30 in October, so the clock is ticking on both him and the team. The Browns signed veteran Jason Campbell as a backup in case Weeden fails this year and they acquired some extra draft picks in 2014, ammunition in case they have to maneuver to find their future QB.

Weeden won't have his top target for the first two games as wide receiver Josh Gordon was suspended for failing the NFL's drug policy.

ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK: Cleveland's defense will have moving parts. More precisely, blitzing parts.

Horton has switched the Browns from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme, one that puts a premium on pressuring the quarterback. Cleveland restocked its defensive front, signing free agent linebackers Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves, end Desmond Bryant and drafting Barkevious Mingo with the No. 6 overall pick.

With the Arizona Cardinals last season, Horton's defense had the NFL's lowest opposing quarterback rating (71.2 percent), ranked second in third-down efficiency (32.9) and interceptions (22) and was third in red-zone defense (44.4).

It's a high-risk, high-reward approach, and if nothing else, it will be fun to watch.

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Luke WillsonOct 24 10:44p

Seattle Seahawks TE Luke Willson (groin) will play in the team's Week 8 game, according to head coach Pete Carroll.

Crockett GillmoreOct 24 10:32p

Baltimore Ravens rookie TE Crockett Gillmore will receive the start at tight end in Week 8 against the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Ravens appear to have plenty of confidence [ More ]

Golden TateOct 24 10:12p

Detroit Lions WR Golden Tate will be facing the league's 29th ranked pass defense in Week 8 against the Atlanta Falcons.

Steve JohnsonOct 24 10:08p

San Francisco 49ers WR Stevie Johnson has played only 20 percent of the snaps in the last month, but he's been the team's most effective receiver in that time. [ More ]

Reggie BushOct 24 10:02p

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle) is expected to be inactive for the Week 9 game against the Atlanta Falcons in London, according to a source Friday, Oct. 24.

Calvin JohnsonOct 24 10:02p

Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson (ankle) is unlikely to play in Week 8 against the Atlanta Falcons in London, according to a source. The team has a bye in [ More ]

Ryan MathewsOct 24 09:52p

San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee) missed his sixth consecutive game in Week 8 Thursday, Oct. 23, against the Denver Broncos, but he could return to practice as [ More ]

Donald BrownOct 24 09:52p

San Diego Chargers RB Donald Brown (concussion) missed his third straight game in Week 8 Thursday, Oct. 23, against the Denver Broncos, but he might be able to return to practice Monday, Oct. 27.

Alan BallOct 24 07:02p

The Jacksonville Jaguars are extremely thin at cornerback heading into the team's Week 8 game, with CBs Alan Ball (biceps) out, and Dwayne Gratz (hip flexor) questionable. There is [ More ]

Kevin WilliamsOct 24 06:32p

Seattle Seahawks FB Derrick Coleman (foot), DT Jordan Hill (ankle), CB Byron Maxwell (calf), TE Zach Miller (ankle), C Max Unger (foot), LB Bobby Wagner (toe) and WR Bryan [ More ]

Khalif BarnesOct 24 06:32p

Oakland Raiders OT Khalif Barnes (quadriceps) is expected to start at right tackle in Week 8, but head coach Tony Sparano would not say if Barnes or OT Menelik [ More ]

LaMarr WoodleyOct 24 06:22p

Oakland Raiders DE LaMarr Woodley (biceps) and FS Usama Young (knee) are expected to be placed on the Reserve/Injured list.

Dion SimsOct 24 06:02p

Miami Dolphins SS Jimmy Wilson (hamstring) is listed as doubtful for Week 8. LB Koa Misi (ankle) is listed as questionable, while OT Branden Albert (elbow), LS John Denney [ More ]

Billy WinnOct 24 05:52p

Cleveland Browns WR Rodney Smith (hamstring) and DT Phil Taylor (knee) have been ruled out for Week 8. DE Billy Winn (quadriceps) and SS Jim Leonhard (ankle) are listed [ More ]

Justin TuckOct 24 05:42p

Oakland Raiders TE David Ausberry (foot), WR Vincent Brown (hamstring), CB Keith McGill (groin), DE LaMarr Woodley (biceps) and FS Usama Young (knee) did not participate in practice Friday, [ More ]

Derrick ColemanOct 24 05:32p

Updating a previous report, Seattle Seahawks RB Derrick Coleman (foot) had surgery to repair a foot injury this week. He is expected to miss at least six weeks.

Brandon BrownerOct 24 05:32p

New England Patriots DE Chandler Jones (hip) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 24, and has been ruled out for Week 8. OG Dan Connolly (concussion), DE Dominique [ More ]

Johnathan JosephOct 24 05:32p

Houston Texans CB Darryl Morris (ankle) and LB Jeff Tarpinian (knee) have been ruled out for Week 8 against the Tennessee Titans. LBs Jadeveon Clowney (knee), Brian Cushing (knee), [ More ]

Frostee RuckerOct 24 05:22p

Arizona Cardinals TE Troy Niklas (ankle) has been ruled out for Week 8 against the Philadelphia Eagles. DE Calais Campbell (knee) is questionable, while S Rashad Johnson (knee) and [ More ]

Morgan BurnettOct 24 05:12p

Green Bay Packers DE Datone Jones (ankle) has been ruled out for Week 8 against the New Orleans Saints. S Morgan Burnett (calf) is questionable, while CB Sam Shields [ More ]

James StarksOct 24 05:12p

Green Bay Packers RB James Starks (ankle) was limited in practice for the second straight day Friday, Oct. 24, but is probable for Week 8 against the New Orleans [ More ]

Lance BriggsOct 24 05:02p

Chicago Bears LB Jonathan Bostic (back) and LB Lance Briggs (ribs) were limited in practice Friday, Oct. 24, and are doubtful for Week 8. S Danny McCray (knee) did [ More ]

Ryan ClarkOct 24 05:02p

Washington Redskins CB Tracy Porter (hamstring) and FS Ryan Clark (ankle, shoulder) were limited during practice Friday, Oct. 24. DE Chris Baker (thigh), OT Tyler Polumbus (knee), LB Perry [ More ]

Jack CrawfordOct 24 04:52p

Dallas Cowboys OT Doug Free (foot) and DE Jack Crawford (calf) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 24. Anthony Spencer (knee) was limited during practice, while LB Bruce [ More ]

Ronnie HillmanOct 24 04:52p

Denver Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman continues to run with confidence in the absence of RB Montee Ball (groin), and Ball will likely find it hard to win his starting [ More ]

Jonathan GoodwinOct 24 04:32p

New Orleans Saints C Jonathan Goodwin (ankle, knee) and LB Kyle Knox (ankle) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 24, and have been ruled out. DT Brodrick Bunkley [ More ]

Nick MangoldOct 24 04:32p

New York Jets LB Trevor Reilly (knee) and WR Greg Salas (wrist, ankle) both were limited in practice Friday, Oct. 24, and are questionable for Week 8. OT Oday [ More ]

Cyrus GrayOct 24 04:32p

Kansas City Chiefs CB Christopher Owens (knee) has been ruled out for Week 8 against the St. Louis Rams. WR Junior Hemingway (hamstring) and S Eric Berry (ankle) are [ More ]

Khiry RobinsonOct 24 04:22p

New Orleans Saints RB Khiry Robinson (forearm) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 24, and has been ruled out for Week 8.

Jo-Lonn DunbarOct 24 04:22p

St. Louis Rams C Tim Barnes (shoulder) and CB Brandon McGee (foot) are both out for Week 8 against the Kansas City Chiefs. CBs Janoris Jenkins (knee) and Trumaine [ More ]

R. Griffin IIIOct 24 04:12p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (ankle) said he won't rush back to play until his ankle is fully healed. 'It's our job to help this team win, and [ More ]

Pierre ThomasOct 24 04:12p

New Orleans Saints RB Pierre Thomas (rib, shoulder) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 24, and has been ruled out for Week 8.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group